(MSU Billings release)
PORTLAND, Ore. – Adam Cox inherited a bases loaded with no outs situation and proceeded to strike out the side in the most trying inning of the day for Montana State University Billings, which swept Concordia University in a doubleheader at Porter Park on the opening day of the 2018 Great Northwest Athletic Conference baseball season.
MSUB claimed the opening game 4-2, as Cox allowed just two baserunners in three shutout frames to record the save. The offense jumped out in the nightcap, scoring six runs in the first three innings of an eventual 8-3 triumph.
Cox was one of just five pitchers used by the ‘Jackets on the day, as the visitors set themselves up to win the series on Sunday with plenty of fresh arms available. MSUB moved to 7-5 on the season with the win, and started its conference schedule with a perfect 2-0 record.
“Sam (Wong) and Steen (Fredrickson) really set the tempo for us as a group today,” said MSUB head coach Aaron Sutton on his two starting pitchers. “They attacked the strike zone and allowed our defense to go make plays. Offensively I thought our hitters were very disciplined and stuck to the game plan today. Tomorrow is a new day and our guys are looking forward to going out and competing for a series win.”
Concordia meanwhile fell to 1-11 with the loss and is 0-2 at the start of the conference season. Mitch Bevacqua went 3-for-7 with an RBI on the day, but the CU offense stranded 17 baserunners in the two games.
Ryan Myers hit his fourth home run of the year for the ‘Jackets, and Kade Hall went 4-for-7 in the doubleheader with two runs and two RBIs.
Game 1 – MSU Billings 4, Concordia 2
Sutton turned the ball over to Cox to get the ‘Jackets out of a bases loaded jam with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The senior carved through the 2-through-4 hitters in the Cavaliers’ lineup, striking out the side in commanding fashion. The righty didn’t allow a hit over the final three innings of play, sealing his second save of the year and the 11th of his career.
Sam Wong pitched well enough to claim his second win of the season, giving up two runs on six hits with three strikeouts in six strong innings in the start for the ‘Jackets.
Jalen Garcia got MSUB on the board with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, plating leadoff hitter Hayden Humphrey. A move in the lineup from the top spot to No. 5 proved fruitful for Hall, who drove in the next two MSUB runs with a single in the third and a groundout in the fifth.
CU struck back in the bottom of the sixth, when reigning GNAC Player of the Week Isaiah Hatch led off with a double. Bevacqua followed with an RBI triple, and the Cavaliers pulled within a run on a sacrifice fly by Tanner Williams.
Myers’ fourth home run of the year provided all the insurance MSUB needed in the seventh inning, before the Yellowjackets sent Cox to the mound in the bottom of the frame.
CU starter Kaleb Jones pitched well over six innings, giving up three runs on eight hits with six strikeouts against a pair of walks. Andrew Marriott threw the final two frames for the ‘Cavs, limiting the Yellowjacket offense to a single run and keeping his team in the game until the end.
The ‘Jackets played a clean game defensively with no errors, while CU had three defensive miscues in the opening game of the doubleheader.
Game 2 – MSU Billings 8, Concordia 3 (7 Innings)
The ‘Jackets surrounded a four-run second inning with a single run in both the first and third, building an early 6-0 lead that set the tone in Saturday’s nightcap.
That was plenty of offense to back reigning GNAC Pitcher of the Week Steen Fredrickson, who picked up the victory with one earned run on six hits with eight strikeouts and no walks in 5 1/3 innings. Talon Derrick pitched the final 1 2/3 frames, notching three strikeouts and giving up one run on two hits.
Humphrey was key out of the leadoff spot, going 2-for-2 with two runs, two RBIs, and two walks in the second game of the day. Kaleo Johnson also had a strong showing further down in the lineup, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs as the team’s eighth hitter.
Andrew Schleusner started the big second inning with a leadoff single, and Johnson followed with an RBI-single to right. Humphrey delivered a two-run double, and Chase Teter capped the four-run frame with a sacrifice fly that made the score 5-0.
Though Fredrickson allowed baserunners with less than two outs in each of the first three innings, he wasn’t bothered by being in the stretch as he tossed up three straight zeroes. A leadoff two-bagger by Bevacqua led to a CU run in the fourth, but the junior right-hander shook it off and limited the damage.
Concordia starter Jake Roes was banged up for six runs on five hits and four walks in three innings, and the Cavs used three more arms to finish the game. Isaac Mitchum was effective out of the pen for CU, striking out four in two shutout innings in relief of his team’s starter.
Johnson accounted for a pair of insurance runs with a single in the top of the sixth, and made the lead 8-1 in favor of the ‘Jackets.
The Cavaliers mustered a run each in the sixth and seventh, courtesy of knocks by Eddie Vasquez and Dominic Enbody, but Derrick held tough and closed the door.
The ‘Jackets stranded 11 runners despite scoring eight times, and three errors in the second game didn’t wind up hurting.
THE BUZZ: Cox was tabbed the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Day…MSUB is now 14-7 all-time against CU and is 9-3 in games played in Portland…the ‘Jackets have won 11 of the last 13 games between the teams…the home run was the 15th of Myers’ career with the ‘Jackets…Fredrickson entered the day leading the GNAC with 16 strikeouts, and now has a conference-high 26.
AHEAD: The series concludes on Sunday, with another doubleheader at Porter Park. First pitch is scheduled for noon Pacific time.